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April 2, 2009
Everyone has a stake these days in helping improve the environment, and now members of the Northwest community have an online resource dedicated to helping green-minded Bearcats reduce their ecological "paw print."
The Residential Life Sustainability Committee has been working since early in the fall trimester to create a sustainability guide, which is available at www.nwmissouri.edu/services/sustainability.
The guide is an easy-to-navigate tip sheet filled with suggestions for increasing recycling volume, conserving water, cutting down on paper use, reducing energy consumption and increasing the green factor at events and meetings.
Scott Shields, an area coordinator for the Office of Residential Life, said the manual was first conceived as a way to improve sustainability within the University's residence hall system. But as the project moved forward, Shields said it became apparent that the document could be adapted to serve Northwest as a whole.
Shields headed up the committee that assembled the manual, which was pieced together from information found in similar guides used by other institutions as well as data derived from environmental initiatives already underway at Northwest and ideas from students, faculty and staff.
According to the committee, the manual is intended as a starting point for those who want to adopt effective, everyday strategies that will improve the campus environment, conserve resources and improve sustainability. The group hopes to add new ideas as time goes on.
"As it turned out, the project exceeded its initial scope," Shields said. "I think the committee adopted a 'let's just do it' philosophy and went with it. What you will basically find in the manual is bullet after bullet of solutions -- not a bunch of theory about why it's important."
Shields said he thinks the manual is well timed to coincide with increasing awareness about environmental concerns as well as the need to conserve, recycle and re-use material and resources in ways that save money in a challenging economy.
"I'm seeing this when I go to student affairs-related conferences," he said. "Instead of paper handouts, there is a transition toward saying, 'get us your e-mail address and we'll send it to you.'"
With university budgets tightening nationwide, Shields said, more people are also thinking, "If we're not printing this on paper we don't have to pay for it."
The sustainability guide contains dozens of suggestions for cutting down on waste and saving energy, from shutting down appliances and office equipment when leaving for the weekend to setting up recycling bins for paper, plastic and aluminum instead of trash cans at events where food is served.
Other tips include installing water filters on sink taps and drinking from reusable containers rather than purchasing bottled water and opening shades and blinds during daylight hours in winter to help warm rooms and offices.